Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl
kirilaw

Final books of '09

It's still the first week of 2010, so I shall insist that it's not too late to be posting this final book-list. I will not make a resolution about posting these more regularly, because that's just crazy-talk. :P


67. Rider at the Gate (C.J. Cherryh)
C.J. Cherryh takes the well-worn companion animal concept and flips it on its head. She provides a plausible reason for human dependance on the nighthorses, and a reasonable handwave in the direction of why they might want to have anything to do with us. The nighthorses are recognizably non-human, and, initial appearances aside, not horses. They are, however, great characters. The people seem almost secondary. This was a good story, and well done. ****

68. Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World (Justin Marozzi)
This is very much a history for a lay audience. Marozzi works in descriptions of his own travels in the relevant areas and is careful to use the most familiar spellings possible for an anglophone audience. He also has a tendency to use the storytelling mode that I find a little distracting, although I know he’s doing it to make events more accessible. I wouldn’t call this great historical writing, and I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but as an introduction to the person and the period for a casual reader, it made an enjoyable read. ****

69. A Concise History of Byzantium (Warren Treadgold)
This is pretty much exactly what it says on the box. A concise (and clearly compressed) history of the Byzantine period. ****

70. The Oxford History of Byzantium (Ed. Cyril Mango)
Unlike the Concise History, this book is actually a collection of essays by various authors and historians, and some bits are therefore better than others. Some sections are straightforward histories of events, but there are also sections on various aspects of daily life which provide an interesting variety of perspectives on the period. There is some tendency to omit details that I found frustrating -- for example, saints’ lives are used as evidence for what life was like without the full story being told. Generally, though, the book was worth reading. ****

71. Women of Byzantium (Carolyn L. Connor)
Women’s lives were one area not much touched on in the preceding histories, so this was a nice change of pace. The book is readable, and interesting. As always, I can’t vouch for its accuracy, and it seemed at times to be drawing pretty significant conclusions from pretty scanty evidence. Its purpose, though, seems to be more to paint a picture than to be completely rigorous, and at that it did succeed. Worth reading, though with a grain of salt, I think. ****

72. Corambis (Sarah Monette)
This book concludes Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series, and it does so on a high note. As always with these books, I found the pacing odd, but the journey so enjoyable that it didn’t bother me much. I love the encounter with a more industrial society -- with trains! and a subway! -- and I loved watching Felix and Mildmay learn to deal with it. I also loved the new characters, and I was perfectly happy to just watch everyone play off each other for most of the book. Even if it did occasionally seem to be jumping up and down and screaming “look how Felix is dealing with his problems!” Heh. ****

73. Inkdeath (Cornelia Funke)
I enjoyed this volume somewhat less than the other two books in the series, in large part because the focus was largely on Mo and Resa, and not on Meggie at all. Also, there was extensive angst. It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t live up to its predecessors. Alas. ***

74. Equal Rites (Terry Pratchett)
Witches, and wizards, and magic that kinda resembles science, only nobody really understands it. This was a very fun read -- I enjoyed it greatly.
*****

75. Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)
Agatha Christie’s always good for a light and enjoyable mystery, but what I found particularly interesting in reading this was the sorts of assumptions about things like national character that are made and pass completely unremarked. When Poirot suggests that a crime is “peculiarly English”, he’s not contradicted. The assumption that a man’s nationality can be told by the way he sits... this kind of thing is held up as an example of Poirot’s superior powers of observation, but I found it stuck out like a sore thumb to me. It says something about the era... ***

76. Half Life (Shelley Jackson)
A world in which conjoined twins -- specifically conjoined twins joined at the neck, sharing a single body -- have become sufficiently common to be a pride movement, a woman wants to be separated from her (apparently) dormant sister. As she tries to have her sister decapitated, she reminisces about their childhood. That’s roughly the plot, sort of, but this is a book that’s more about language and symbol and metaphor than plot. It’s a fascinating ride, if a little hard to fit all together in the end. ****

77. Certain Women (Madeleine L’Engle)
The story of the Biblical King David is juxtaposed with the story of a dying actor, his many wives and children, and the one daughter who has herself become an actress and is struggling with her own marriage. It’s a well-told story, but it didn’t grab me the way I was hoping it would. It almost felt like stereotypical “women’s fiction”, much as it grieves me to say so. I think it’s just not my thing. **

78. Rhetorics of Fantasy (Farah Mendlesohn)
A very interesting attempt to classify fantasy. I’m not sure she’s completely successful in her classifications, but she makes some very interesting arguments along the way and does a good job of bringing together sometimes widely divergent books into similar categories. Interesting reading. ****

79. Spin (Robert Charles Wilson)
I read a lot of praise for this book when it first came out in 200x, and it was well-deserved. It’s a book that’s both purely speculative -- in that it thoroughly works out the implications of a Big Idea -- and purely human; it is, at its heart, a story about relationships. Recommended. *****

80. The Dispossessed (Ursula K. LeGuin)
It’s been ages since I read this book, but it holds up well. Neither Anarres (a functional anarchy) nor Urres (a planet with a striking resemblance to Earth) is presented as a utopia, and both are shown to be populated by fallible human beings, many of whom are well-intentioned. Nevertheless, the portrayal of an essentially functioning anarchy, with a bureaucracy but no government, remains a significant accomplishment. The characters are a little broadly drawn at times, but Shevek makes for a sympathetic (if rather naive) protagonist. ****

81, 82, 83, 84. Absolute Sandman vol 1-4 (Neil Gaiman et al)
It’s lovely, reading the whole of Sandman back to back, and seeing how neatly it all fits together. The Absolute editions are physically beautiful things, and the recoloured first volume is certainly worth the money. The others, while not dramatically different from previously released versions, contain enough extras to be decidedly tempting. Have I ever mentioned how much I love this series? Because I do. It’s great. *****


1. The Gone-Away World (Nick Harkaway) *****
2. Old Man's War (John Scalzi) ****
3. Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman (Walter M. Miller) *
4. Sprit Gate (Kate Elliott) *****
5. Sunshine (Robin McKinley) *****
6. Capacity (Tony Ballantyne) ***
7. Knitting Rules (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) ****
8. Rite (Tad Williams) ***
9, 10. Astonishing X-Men 1, 2 (Joss Whedon, John Cassaday et al) ***
11. Tigerheart (Peter David) ***
12, 13, 14. The Serrano Legacy: Hunting Party, Sporting Chance, Winning Colours (Elizabeth Moon) ****
15. Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (Bryan Lee O'Malley) *****
16. Sweetness in the Belly (Camilla Gibb) *****
17. Serenity vol. 2: Better Days (Joss Whedon et. al.) ***
18, 19. "The Stratford Man" - Ink and Steel, Hell and Earth (Elizabeth Bear) *****
20. The Electric Church (Jeff Somers) ****
21. The Mysteries (Lisa Tuttle) ****
22. Yarn Harlot: the Secret Life of a Knitter (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) ****
23. Watchmen (Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons) ****
24. Justinian (H.N. Turtletaub) ****
25, 26, 27. King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, the Burning Stone (Kate Elliott) ****
28. Shadow Gate (Kate Elliott) *****
29. Into the Darkness (Harry Turtledove) ***
30. Child of Flame (Kate Elliott) ****
31. The Ghost Brigades (John Scalzi) ****
32. New Amsterdam (Elizabeth Bear) *****
34. Transformers Animated: The Arrival (Marty Isenberg et al) ****
35. The Silver Bough (Lisa Tuttle) ****
36. Accelerando (Charles Stross) **
37. A History of Western Philosophy (D.W. Hamlyn) ***
38. The Last Colony (John Scalzi) ***
39. Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together (vol. 4) (Bryan Lee O'Malley) *****
40. Scott Pilgrim Versus the Universe (vol. 5) (Bryan Lee O'Malley) *****
41. The Gathering Storm (Kate Elliott) *****
42. Saturn's Children (Charles Stross) ***
43. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
44. Over the Wine-Dark Sea (H.N. Turteltaub) ***
45. Palimpset (Catherynne M. Valente) *****
46. Half a Crown (Jo Walton) ****
47. Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) ****
48. Anathem (Neal Stephenson) ****
49. The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle) *****
50, 51. In the Ruins, Crown of Stars (Kate Elliott) ****
52. This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn (Aidan Chambers) ****
53. The Translator (John Crowley) ***
54. The Forgotten Garden (Kate Morton)
55. The Steep Approach to Garbadale (Iain Banks) ****
56. Always Coming Home (Ursula K. Le Guin) *****
57. The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Gabriel Ba and Gerard Way) ****
58. Uglies (Scott Westerfield) ****
59. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (David Petersen) *****
60. Zoe’s Tale (John Scalzi) ***
61. Acacia: The War with the Mein (David Anthony Durham) ***
62. Vellum: the Book of All Hours (Hal Duncan)
63. Thunderer (Felix Gilman) ****
64. The Mongols and the West: 1221-1410 (Peter Jackson) ***
65. The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History (John M. Ford) ****
66. The City and the City (China Mieville) *****


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